This following is a remarkable guest post from a young Egyptian refugee who visited The Grange for one of our regular Workday Wednesdays. All comments and views are his own.
This article is part of a book to be published in the near future, its name is This is What I Saw; The Adventures of a Refugee.
As usual New Routes surprised me with two different and wonderful trips outside the city of Norwich. This time was a second trip for me with the New Routes to The Grange, about an hour's drive from the city of Norwich.
Amelie, who organized and prepared the trip, set off with myself and another individual in the morning. When we arrived we found Ben, who is the director of The Grange, waiting for us. He greeted us and welcomed us, and then we went to the yard where we found some people who worked hard at different activities, who also welcomed us. I asked them about where I could change my clothes. Ben told me I would work with Lucy in the garden, planting seeds. I welcomed the very idea because I have missed the clay earth and because I have experience of agriculture, having inherited this experience and knowledge from my father who was a farmer. Lucy took me to the seed store to take seeds to be cultivated. She asked me “do you want gloves?” I told her I did not want gloves because I missed the touch and smell of the mud, which would bring back sweet memories of digging as a child. Life is full of sweet and bitter memories and I wanted to keep hold of the sweet ones. I wanted my hands to be embraced by the mud, hoping that my greeting of seeds and water would one day be reciprocated with flowers, fruits and plants.
During the work I remembered my childhood when I played and had fun in the fields, and also what I have seen and read about agriculture in ancient Egypt and the walls of the ancient pharaonic temples and tombs. Rest time came after two hours of work and we sat down to drink tea with biscuits.
There was a discussion between me and Pat, a member of the team, who asked me “are you happy with the work?” I told her “yes with my pleasure” she asked “Where are you from?” I told her “I am from Egypt”. She was surprised and asked me “do you know Pharaoh Tutankhamun and the story of the discovery of his tomb?” I told her “yes, Tutankhamun was a pharaoh of Ancient Egypt from 1334 to 1325 BC. Tutankhamun is the most famous pharaoh for reasons not related to achievements made or wars triumphed as is the case with a lot of the Pharaohs; but for the reason that his tomb was discovered undamaged with all treasures in full. On the 4th November 1922 British archaeologist and Ancient Egyptian Scholar, Howard Carter, chipped away a hole in the wall. He held a candle to the hole and when asked by his assistant if he could see anything, said “Yes I see wonderful and amazing things!”
Pat asked me “do you know where Howard Carter lived in England?” I told her “I do not know”. She told me that he lived in Swaffham, Norfolk, just a 30-minute drive from the city of Norwich. Carter’s house has been converted into a museum, filled with artefacts of Tutankhamum’s tomb. I looked at her with amazement and joy to hear this new information that I did not know before. Traveling to new places in the area of East Anglia in which I live has given me what I want, and this day gave me the fruits and flowers of information I could pick to feed my spirit of the researcher within me.
I completed my work again with Lucy who was cooperative and patient with me as I asked many questions about what the name of the tools and seeds were in English. We worked in three teams like bees, planting seeds, arranging and chopping wood. We did not work for any queen bee, we only worked for love and respect.
We sat down to eat dinner and I meditated on the plant life of the countryside and the joy. The countryside is the most beautiful place in my view. The simplicity, beauty, tranquility, fresh air, clear skies, smell of the grass and beautiful aromatic flowers. The sound of trickling running water merged with the sound of birds and the rays of the sun kissed our skin.
We went back to work again and Ben told me the work in agriculture was finished and that had a new job for me. He was shy about asking as the work is hard but I smiled and said “my friend, work is work”. Work is in an essential part of human life, which gives man and woman status and the feeling of being part of society, interacting with our fellow humans. The ancient civilizations undoubtedly did not come out of nowhere, but it were the result of hard work. As Saint Paul, Jesus’s assistant said "the hand which does not work does not eat."
My final job at The Grange was to smash huge bricks. As I took the big hammer in my hand I imagined that the brick was the authority of army and religions who have destroyed my country and extinguished the candle of civilization. Now it was my turn to destroy them, as I smashed the bricks without breath or rest, until someone called me for tea. I went to drink my tea and talked to people as much as possible in order to forget the bad emotions that had been stirred in me.
After tea I changed my clothes and as we prepared to leave I dreamt that my homeland of Egypt would get better without the fascist authority of the army and religion.
I am very happy having gone to The Grange as I have met new people who I have learnt from and gained experience of different cultures. I hope to go again and again and again. Thank you so much to New Routes, the team at the Grange and congratulation for myself being able to sleep without insomnia on Wednesdays!